FIBA Women’s World Cup Primer: Canada in tough in Group B

Canada's Bridget Carleton protects the basketball. (CP/FIBA)

The FIBA Women’s World Cup 2022 will get going Wednesday evening – for most of us here in Canada

Taking place in Sydney, Australia, the World Cup will see 12 teams, including Canada, compete for the right to be crowned world champions.

Here’s a quick primer of everything you need to know about the upcoming tournament.

What is the FIBA Women’s World Cup and why is it important?

The World Cup is the world championship tournament of international women’s basketball.

Unlike the men’s World Cup, however, the women’s tournament doesn’t award as many automatic berths into the Olympics. Whereas seven Olympic spots are offered from the men’s World Cup (which is scheduled next year, Aug. 25- Sept. 10 in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia), only one Olympic berth will be awarded at the women’s World Cup.

The winner of the FIBA Women’s World Cup 2022 will punch its ticket straight to the Paris 2024 Olympic tournament.

So, outside of the prestige that comes from competing for a world championship title, the most important aspect of the World Cup is the Olympic spot on the line. With that said, though, there will still be the opportunity to reach the Olympics in the form of the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, beginning with the Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournaments. They will pave the way as the first step towards Olympic qualification for all but the winner of the World Cup.

Who’s playing for Canada?

There will be 12 women representing Canada in Australia, including program mainstays such as Natalie Achonwa and Bridget Carleton. Most notable, however, is the return of program star Kia Nurse, who is making her comeback to competitive basketball at the World Cup after 11 months away due to a torn ACL in her right knee.

“I haven’t forgotten how to pass, dribble or shoot, it’s just a matter of being able to kind of do that at a high clip and at a high rate,” Nurse said in a conference call Monday. “And so that’s a lot of what I’m going to work through.”

Seeing Nurse back on a basketball court will be a welcome sight for not just fans of the program, but her teammates and coaches as well as she should provide some added veteran leadership, to say nothing of her actual on-court skills.

Here’s a complete look at Canada’s roster:

Natalie Achonwa, forward, Guelph, Ont.
Kayla Alexander, forward, Milton, Ont.
Laeticia Amihere, forward, Mississauga, Ont.
Bridget Carleton, guard, Chatham, Ont.
Shay Colley, guard, Brampton, Ont.
Nirra Fields, guard, Montreal.
Mael Gilles, guard, Montreal.
Taya Hanson, guard, Kelowna, B.C.
Sami Hill, guard, Toronto.
Aislinn Konig, guard, Langley, B.C.
Phillipina Kyei, forward, Calgary.
Kia Nurse, guard, Hamilton, Ont.

Who will Canada face?

The tournament is broken up into two groups of six teams with Canada in Group B.

In Canada’s group are a number of heavy hitters, including world No. 3 Australia. Canada is ranked fourth in the world but will still have its work cut out in the group as only four will advance past the round-robin stage into the quarterfinals.

The following is a look at Group B, with each team’s respective world ranking:

Australia (3)
Canada (4)
France (6)
Japan (8)
Serbia (10)
Mali (37)

For those wondering, the United States is the top-ranked country in the world. It’s competing in Group A along with Belgium, China, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Puerto Rico and South Korea.

How did Canada qualify for the World Cup?

Canada qualified for the World Cup in its World Cup qualifying tournament in February n Japan.

Though Canada did play a couple games, there wasn’t much tension. The team had already booked its ticket to the World Cup by the time it first arrived in Japan as Belarus was forced to withdraw from the four-team tournament that would see three teams qualify for the World Cup because of several positive COVID-19 tests on its team.

This resulted in Canada, host Japan and Bosnia and Herzegovina ending up playing against each other in glorified friendlies as they had already qualified for the big tournament.

Japan, a team in Canada’s Group B in the World Cup, toppled the Canadians 86-79 in overtime. So that could be something to watch for as the World Cup gets underway.

Lapena’s first true test

This will be new women’s national team head coach Victor Lapena’s first big test with Canada. Hired in January of this year, Lapena, who was a longtime coach with Spain’s national women’s program, is the hopeful to take this talented Canadian team to the next level and compete for medals and championships.

The World Cup will be a suitable litmus test for what he can do.

What’s the schedule of the tournament?

Canada will open its tournament Wednesday night at 11 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. PT against Serbia.

You can check in with this page for a full look at the tournament’s schedule and standings when things get under way.

All of Canada’s games will be broadcast on Sportsnet.

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